I’m Judging You

“I’m judging you”. It’s a phrase we’ve all said jokingly to our friends when we catch them sneaking that extra slice of pizza, or we walk in on them listening to their favorite Nickleback song. It’s all said in fun with no harm done, but what about when we walk out the door and into the lives of everyone else around us? Chances are we’re still assuming the “I’m judging you” attitude only this time with less fun involved.

Let’s be realistic here, it’s fun to judge people. I wouldn’t be honest if I admitted otherwise. It’s a favorite pastime of many people that makes them feel a little better about themselves and might even justify some of their own actions. I’m guilty of it, very much so. When I see certain people at Walmart that really stand out (you know who I’m talking about) it’s almost second nature to pass judgment on them. If we must be honest, then let’s be brutally honest. This world is populated by a lot of overweight people, unfortunate looking people, obnoxious people…I don’t really need to go on, do I? I don’t say this because I think I’m better than they are; I say it to make a point. Earth is a big kitchen with a lot of spices, and some don’t mix well with others. That doesn’t make them any less important in the recipe, though.

Did you ever stop to think that the overweight woman you see milling about in the cookie aisle, the one wearing the mangy looking sweatpants and a tank top that’s stretched a bit too far around the more, shall we say, robust areas of her upper torso, the one with the dirty looking kids that won’t seem to shut up, you know, her – did you ever stop to think that she has feelings that are just as easily damaged as yours? It’s true that there’s some people in the world that are so self-confident they could appear in public in their underwear and feel no shame. And, of course, there are the ones that simply don’t care or perhaps aren’t aware of their appearance due to delusion. Suffice it to say, however, most people will be all too aware of the way they look, and people like that woman may not be at the place in her life to take better care of herself. Maybe all the money she receives is from state support, or maybe she works two jobs so she can pay the bills and feed her family with next to nothing left over. Why am I saying all of this? It’s simple, it’s time we start cutting people some slack. And I’m speaking to myself the most.

We lack conviction and compassion in our lives. We don’t want to be held accountable for our inner most thoughts because they’re ours. They’re locked away in our minds where no one else can hear them but us. If I said out loud half the things I think, I would no doubt offend a great deal of people. Keeping it to an inner monologue doesn’t change the fact that’s it’s any less wrong than making it public. On the contrary, it still has the same effect. You may not be hurting someone’s feelings with your words or your glares, but what you are doing is channeling that judgment from your mind straight into your heart. Eventually, if enough time goes by giving way to these patterns, cynicism and ego will take over and you’re going to start believing that you’re somehow better than everyone else around you., when in fact, you’re just like them.

Romans 2:1

Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.

And that’s just not talking about the act of wearing dirty sweatpants either. That’s summing up a lot more than that. It’s talking about hypocrisy. In simpler terms, we are a reflection of the people we meet everyday. The guy who is rude to the salesman is the woman who is obnoxiously talking on her cell phone in the check out line. The teenager who is making fun of a classmate in school is the principal who thinks all kids are worthless. The white guy that tells his friend that all black people are lazy is the black guy that tells his friend that all white people are privileged. Am I being bold in these statements? Absolutely. I think it’s time as Christians that we start holding ourselves accountable and recognize in ourselves what has already changed in our lives when Christ’s spirit came to dwell inside of us.

Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

When we accept Christ as our savior we not only invite Him into our lives, but into our minds, our hearts and our spirit. Christ has taken over who we are. When I said earlier that we are a reflection of the people we see everyday, we are also a reflection for them and it’s time we start letting them see Christ in us. When you see someone smile it makes you want to smile. When you see someone having a good time, you want to join in. Let’s start showing people the joy that Christ has given us so they’ll want what they see. It’s an open invitation and there’s more than enough room.

Luke 6:38

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.

So, the next time you see our friend at Walmart, say a blessing to her as you walk by. It will make her feel good and you might be surprised how it makes you fee, too.



Lost But Not Forgotten

Have you ever felt like all is lost? We will undoubtedly encounter painful situations in our lives that will shake us to the core. We will experience pain that causes us to drop to our knees and cry out with questions that may seem unanswerable. When we don’t understand what is going on in our lives and why things seem to be on a downward spiral, our first instinct is to become defensive and shutting out any voice of reason that might be coming our way, even if it’s from ourselves. These are normal behaviors that we experience, but they are not part of the solution.

When bad things happen we often feel like we’re being tested. Do I have enough strength? Could I have had more faith? Why is this happening to me? Why do I feel so alone? It’s a safe bet to say that if you’re experiencing something that is making you miserable, chances are you’re not alone. The old adage ‘it takes two to tango’ doesn’t necessarily denote negativity, but it does mean there is more than one side to your situation. A breakup, for example, is a classic situation where a person has immediate feelings of abandonment and rejection. Those feelings can ignite a range of passionate reactions that for the most part, usually never help to resolve anything other than furthering your own grief. So what do we do to help ourselves move forward when all we want to do is question the past in search of those answers that may never come? We turn to Christ.

It’s a far too often told lie from Satan that God doesn’t want us to be happy. If that were so, Christ wouldn’t have even bothered with humanity and would have let us perish. Everything we experience emotionally Christ also experienced. On top of that, He’s the one who created our emotions, so He absolutely knows how to help us handle them. There are five stages to grief that a person typically goes through when faced with a loss, and it doesn’t have to be limited to death. Losing a friend or someone who you love due to a breakup will garner the same result. Let’s take a look at these five steps and then apply what Jesus teaches us about each one.

1. Denial. Your first instinct is to refuse to believe this is happening to you. You were happy and things might not have been perfect, but you had faith and trusted they would get better. Now your world has shattered and you simply cannot believe what has happened and you feel like you could die. Let’s look at the word, ‘die’. Of course, you’re not going to die, (things aren’t that bad) but in effect, going through a breakup is the death of a relationship. What we need to focus on is what comes after. God has promised that death has no victory over us. This mainly applies to our physical death, but death is what it is.

1st Corinthians 15:54 is a good way to look at it:

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.

We don’t have to worry when someone or something in our lives dies. There is victory over it . The loss of something is the promise of something yet to come. Take time to grieve the loss and allow yourself a period of healing. Moving forward apart from what we’re used to is difficult, but God promises there is always life after death for those who believe in Him.

2. Anger. This is where a lot of people might want to stop reading. A lot of us want to be angry. We think it makes us feel better to get mad and allow ourselves this type of outlet. The reality is, there’s two types of anger: righteous anger and sinful anger. Anger itself is not a sin. It’s what we do with it that causes us to sin. This is an area of my life that I have struggled with deeply in the past. I would become angry and express it in ways that hurt people close to me, even myself. It never brought about a solution; it created more problems. How then, do we handle our emotions when they’re running on overdrive to the point of exploding? We follow Paul’s teaching in Ephesians.

Ephesians 4:31-32 teaches:

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

These are not easy things to do because we must first acknowledge them in our own hearts. We can’t choose to put away bitterness if we don’t see it first. “But I have every right to be bitter!” you say. Take a step back and look at what it is that is causing your bitterness. Is it justified? If so, then take it to God first. Maybe it’s not justified and you’re just feeling angry because you don’t know all the facts. Lay it all at His feet and let God guide you. You may have every right to be angry, but God also tells us to get there slowly.

James 1:19-20

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

God wants us to move slowly when it regards our emotions, especially with anger. Our emotions can take off and run on their own as we try to catch up to understand what’s going on. Chances are, we probably don’t understand what’s happening fully

Proverbs 3:5-6 hits it home for us:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight…

Okay, so what do we do when we’ve gotten there slowly? There is no definitive answer to this because every situation is handled differently, but if we are aligned with Christ and what His Word says, we will already be at a place in our hearts where we are no longer a slave to our anger. It’s at that place where we will be right in the sight of God and it will be easier to forgive.

Remember what I said before, you’re going through a rough time and you’re probably not alone. Pray for yourself, but also offer up anyone else involved in prayer that you may be reconciled to them. God calls for reconciliation, and that doesn’t always mean what we want it to in terms of relationships. Reconciliation can simply mean to have peace.

Hebrews 12:14

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

3. Bargaining. “Okay, God. Listen, maybe I’ve got this all wrong. Maybe if I just pray differently things will get better. Maybe if I stop doing this or start doing that, everything will work out.” Sound familiar? It’s our go-to play in our little book of tricks we keep in our mind’s back pocket that comes out when the chips are down. The thing is, you can’t bargain with God. We tend to think that we can influence God and sway His will. Not going to happen, my friend. It’s as simple as that. If we had the ability to bargain with God, then what we’re truly saying is we think we know better than God. We don’t.

Psalm 139:2-4

You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.

It doesn’t matter what we say to God to try and get our way, He already knows what you’re going to say before you think it. God knows we’re still going to try, but He wants us to do is come to Him with a different approach. Instead of bargaining for what we want, tell Him how you feel and pray. Prayer isn’t a bargaining tool, it’s our open line of communication with God. If we’re so down that we don’t know where to even begin, ask for the Holy Spirit to intercede.

Romans 8:26

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

God knows what our hearts want because He gave us those desires, and they are not fully revealed to us except through prayer. Rather than trying to find a quick fix, take joy in what God is allowing you to go through, thank Him for you what you have and…

Psalm 37:4

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

4. Depression. This is something that many people experience every day, and I firmly believe that it is caused by a supernatural attack on our spirit from Satan. Satan doesn’t want us to be happy. Misery loves company, and trust me, Satan’s miserable. He knows his ultimate demise and he wants to take as many people down with him as possible.

Sadness comes on when we feel that we’ve lost all hope. It can cause people to fall into very deep and dark holes in their lives where nothing else matters. It can cause us to have feelings of complete self worthlessness even up to the point of wanting to end life itself. It is a delicate topic to handle, because when we see people who are depressed our first reaction is to try to cheer them up. Sometimes the best thing we can do is just be there for them to listen and to offer support. We don’t have the ability to fix them, and sadly, neither do they. Ultimately, God has to intervene and bring healing.

Hopefully you’ll never have to experience those levels of depression, but if you are feeling down in any way, it’s a good place to start by remembering that God is our joy and our hope. In the bible, David dealt greatly with depression. There are many scriptures in the book of Psalms that are open cries out to the Lord, Psalm 23 perhaps being the most well known:

Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

There are many promises of hope in this passage. First, David acknowledges that he lacks nothing, God has given him all he needs. He promises peace, or a time of quietness. The thoughts a person can have during depression can often be very loud and overwhelming. God goes on to promise a time of refreshing, or renewal. He makes things new! He promises guidance even in the darkest of times. David acknowledges that he will not be afraid because God is his comfort. God also promises a proper place to rest at during our hardship. Depression can leave us feeling like we don’t belong anywhere. God says we do, and He has given us that place! God promises good things, so much that they will overflow. There is hope through Jesus because what He has promised us He will give to us. It’s difficult, seemingly impossible to do at times, but we must not listen to the lie that there is no hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

5. Acceptance. If we’ve come this far through the last four steps and have applied the teachings of Jesus in our lives to them, then acceptance should come pretty naturally at this point. That’s not to say that we will have just forgotten everything that we’ve gone through, rather, it should be looked at as an experience that God as allowed us to go through that has brought us closer to Him.

God prepares our hearts for the things He has in store for us. Our life is like one big classroom with many subjects being taught simultaneously. We may graduate from one thing only to find that we’re several grades behind in others. Count everything you go through as a blessing. There is nothing that God allows to happen in our lives to ultimately cause us to be unhappy or wanting for more.

Acceptance is nothing more than having trust in Jesus that our lives are in His hands.

Hebrews 13:5

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

We may feel that all is lost, but we are not forgotten.




Failure Is Not An Option

The apocryphal expression “Failure is not an option” that is accredited to NASA’s mission control director Gene Kranz in the 1995 Ron Howard film Apollo 13 is a powerful testament of the determination everyone involved had during the week-long crisis that astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert endured on their failed mission to the Moon. The odds were grim and the world waited patiently in hopes that they would safely return to Earth.

Our lives are much like that of Apollo 13. We all have goals in mind that we want to reach. For some they are small, while others shoot for the Moon. No matter the goal in sight, we strive to work toward seeing them fulfilled. There are things, though, that can happen along the way that can alter our ‘flight plan’. When they happen we feel defeated and often times we just want to give up and believe that we have failed. When the Service Module of Apollo 13 was damaged, the crew felt the sudden defeat of having lost the Moon, but that didn’t stop them from addressing the problem at hand – getting back home. How do we respond when we feel that we’ve lost something? A deeper question might be, what was it that caused us to get off course?

As a Christian, our main goal is to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus so that we may know Him and live our lives accordingly through his Word. When you’re in a relationship with someone who you love, the last thing you want to do is do wrong by them. Being a Christian doesn’t mean that you will stop doing the wrong thing. We still have the ability to sin and will continue to no matter how hard we try not to. And sometimes we’re going to sin and it will be a very conscious choice. What happens after we sin? If we’re aligned with Christ in our hearts, the first thing we’re going to feel is guilt, so then we ask for forgiveness and repent.

Acts 3:19 says:

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,”

This is where Satan likes to comes in and attack us with one of the biggest lies he’s ever told, and that is that we’re not worthy. Satan likes to try to keep us in a position of feeling like a failure in our relationship with Christ. He lays some pretty big guilt trips on us, and too often we listen to him, and it keeps us off course and prevents us from getting back home where we belong. That’s a dangerous place to be because it keeps us from having what God wants for our lives.

So, what do we do? Do we see ourselves has failures having lost our goal? Do we get down on ourselves for what we’ve done to sin against Christ and believe the lie that we’ve messed up too many times for God to even care about us anymore? Do we consider ourselves to be a failure? With Christ, failure is not an option. It never has been and it never will be.

Genesis 3:15 says:

“And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

Adam and Eve were on a path that followed God. That course was altered severely causing them to lose paradise. The Moon was lost for Apollo 13 after something damaged their course, but just like the people at mission control that created a plan to bring them home, God the Father had a plan to save His creation and bring us back home to Him.

When we sin, it’s true that the consequence of our actions may alter our course, even perhaps causing us to miss out on certain things completely, but we’re never going to miss out on Jesus. Our sins are washed clean and God chooses to forget them. He does this through our acceptance of salvation. Some people believe that sin is in the world because God is punishing us. First off, God doesn’t use sin as a form of punishment. Sin itself is not a punishment, it is a consequence of a willful action that rejected God. God created a perfect world in which he placed people. Mankind chose to reject God, and by doing so people are responsible for their fall. That’s the consequence. The punishment for that is death.

Romans 6:23 reads:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

When Christ rose from the dead he took with him the keys to death and it no longer has a hold over us. Death has no power where there is Christ, and neither does sin.

If we feel guilty because of sin count that has a good thing. It means that we’re aware of our actions and not living with reckless abandon. If we find ourselves off course that doesn’t mean we’ve lost. Jesus is our new flight plan. We have to be determined to keep our hearts fixed on Christ. Remember, our relationship with him is our main goal in life, and once we’ve entered into that, nothing is too great to ever damage us to the point of not being able to return to Him.